People have been using Google search since 1997 (in 1996 it was known as BackRub) to search for information on everything under the son and beyond. With the rise of desktop 3D printing, hobbyists have turned to just about every search engine (Bing, Yahoo, WebCrawler, etc.) to get their hands on any number of 3D models for their various projects, which can often become a nightmare after several hours of searching. Fortunately for them, Jessy Lee has created a solution to take away some of the headache involved with trying to find a particular 3D model with his Yobi3D online app.
The Browser-run app functions much the same as any other search application. Users type in their model preferences and it returns with an array of examples. But, it goes much deeper than that. It actually lets users refine their search based on object resolution, file preference, license (noncommercial, reuse with mod, etc.) and even ‘level of printability’- Easy (requires no modification), Medium (requires some modification) and Hard (better get someone who knows CAD).
I had a chance to ask Jessy a few questions about Yobi3D. We wanted to find out what inspired him to create Yobi3D; Was it simply to collect and house 3D models ‘under one roof’? “I needed to find 3D models for my research during graduate school,” says Jessy. “There was no good search tool to find 3D models, like searching for images on Google Image.”
He goes on to state, “I was also inspired by the maturity of WebGL technology, which enables rendering of 3D models within the web browsers. Most of the 3D modeling/rendering tools were very operating system dependent. Putting all these ideas together (Need for 3D models + Google Image + WebGL maturity), Yobi3D was born. And yes! ‘house them under one roof’ is the core idea to make the search faster.”
Of course, when designing a search engine of this sort, even Computer Science graduate students can encounter their fair share of struggles. I asked Jessy if this was a difficult undertaking for him when creating Yobi3D and how it has evolved since inception. “Yes, it was difficult. We ran into many technical challenges with our web crawler and 3D viewer. Since 3D files are all generally larger than web pages and images, we had to revamp our web crawlers to deal with different sizes of files. We index 20 types of 3D file format. It took us some time to work with different 3D modeling software and generalize the files to a web-presentable format, which enables the 3D previews to render fast when a user clicks on a search result.”
Jessy explained some of the new features that were incorporated into the latest version of Yobi3D. Since their launch ins August of 2014, they’ve added two major new features.
1. 3D Printability Filter
This is designed to help entry-level 3D print makers to find 3D models that are printable, instead of getting frustrated dealing with un-printable files or complicated files. For example, finding the right software to convert a file to STL, repair that file, or edit excessively heavy parts.
2. Related 3D Models
Of course, nothing is ever perfect, which is why Jessy and his team are constantly revising and improving the software. Still, Yobi3D is easy to use for even those just starting to venture into the 3D printing and modeling world and is a handy tool for veterans as well.